I think something that the brilliant producers of the world do very well is adding a massive level of spaciousness to their mixes. In some clubs and studios, technologies such as Dolby Atmos are making their way into use. What this can do to your experience of the music is incredible, and I think this is a less appreciated way some of the world’s top producers create their own personal dynamic. Here I’ll dive into some of the ways I create space, and how I hear it in other tracks.
With my background atmosphere, I will often use two completely destroyed drum loops, each with separate effects chains. These loops will be panned hard to each side, so there is a difference between the stereo channels to create width. This effect is subtle as I mix this in at a very low level, but it gives me a baseline width and adds body to the track without distracting transients or harmonics.
I will also use a similar effect with my high-frequency elements. If I want to layer hi-hats in any way, usually to thicken the sound and add a chorus-like harmonic, I’ll often set one of these sounds to mono, often the snappier sound, and spread out the thicker sound to the edges. This effect can be achieved in a few different ways. One, with a delay effect set to full wet and very short delay times, but with the left and right times slightly offset. Second, I may also use a left/right split EQ bank with a slightly different frequency curve on each channel. Finally, I may also set a full left and full right channel for the same sound, and ever so slightly detune one or both. Reverb has a place here as well, but this is better used for front-to back space.
Reverb has a place here as well, but this is better suited for front-to back space. One of the tricks I have heard and make use of is sidechain compression of the reverb on a sound, with the peaks of another sound, in doing so adding some groove to the reverb tail and preventing it from taking over the mix. In this way, it is also very useful to use multiple reverb settings or plugins as well, to establish further three-dimensional distance between elements. Pre-delay is an especially powerful parameter to create a perception of distance.
The final element I will mention here is collapsing tracks to mono. Lower frequencies really need to be collapsed to a mono sound, to keep the power and feeling up. Low frequencies really don’t play nice with bad harmonics and benefit greatly from the extra power of being played in sync from both stereo channels. Mono elements also make more apparent the very wide elements, as people notice contrast and difference very acutely.